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Clearances to TV proposals after review of FDI rules

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MUMBAI: Applications for starting around ten news television channels have been referred to the Finance ministry for veracity of their claims about foreign investment.

While sources in both Information and Broadcasting and Finance ministries insisted that such reference to the sister ministry was made every time a proposal came for any venture with a foreign component, it was clarified by the Finance ministry that the rules pertaining to foreign direct investment were being reviewed and the proposals would be cleared after this was completed.

But Finance ministry sources told Indiantelevision.com that an announcement about the changed and simplified rules was expected shortly.

I&B ministry sources told Indiantelevision.com that this will not mean any further delay in clearing various applications pending with it for licences to start new television channels.

Finance ministry sources said the relevant files had been referred to the Foreign Institutions Unit (FIU) which would refer them to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) after examination.

The examination by the Finance ministry becomes important in view of the overall cap of 26 per cent on foreign direct investment. The specific purpose would also be to examine the ownership pattern of the channels as the government regulations say that the ownership of a channel uplinking from within the country has to be Indian irrespective of the FDI investment.

Proposals of 71 private satellite channels from 52 different companies awaiting permission as on April 30 to uplink from within the country were at different stages of scrutiny, which included clearances from other ministries.

The Uplinking Guidelines issued in November 2005 prescribe two categories of channels: news and current affairs, or non-news and current affairs.

Meanwhile, a total of 222 private satellite television channels have been permitted to uplink from India as on April 30 apart from six channels uplinked from abroad which have been permitted to downlink in India. In addition to this, 54 foreign TV channels have been provisionally permitted to downlink in India.

Ministry sources said only 25 of the proposals are in the non-news category - some relating to music – while the balance are in the news category.

The highest number of proposals – seven - is from three companies linked to the NDTV group. There are four proposals each from ZEE Telefilms, BAG Films group, and the TV 18 group, and three each from Malar Network, Maa TV Network, and STV Enterprises. Two proposals have come from the INX group. The rest of the proposals are from companies wanting to beam single channels. 

One proposal for two channels from Raj TV Network has been pending since May 2005. While 23 proposals were sent in during 2006, the rest were all made this year.

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